Tuesday, November 13, 2007

GQ Rules: 25 Essential Tips, Secrets, and Shortcuts Guaranteed to Improve Your Style... Part 2

11. Learn to tie a bow tie. Ok... learn may be a little misleading. Practice. Get a bow tie, get some instructions, and tie a bow tie. Then put them away. When you first hear of an event where your going to wear the tie, take it out and do it again. One week prior... do it again... The day before.... do it again. Now the day you go out the tie will look good and take about 15 minutes instead of an hour and a half... and your collar won't look like you slept in it.
12. Get a long dark scarf. Black's has cashmere scarves for 200, Gap has cotton ones for 40.
13. Learn how to form a dimple in your tie. The dimple in your tie is the small crease in the center just under the knot. It gets there by pinching the tie as you pull it tight.
14. Cordovan dress shoes are indispensable. Cordovan is not a color. Cordovan is a type of leather, originally from the backsides of French work horses. Today it generally means leather from horses and isn't as good as it once was but industrialization of farming has led to a lack of old workhorses.
15. If you want your suits to survive, dry clean them infrequently. This doesn't mean don't clean them though. Suits should never be dry cleaned if they aren't stained. Brush them frequently, steam them for wrinkles.
16. Puffy or multipeaked pocket squares are dorky. (Yours should be, well, square- like Sean Connery's.) Pocket squares should be worn... after that everyone needs to calm down.
17. Always stow a dress shirt at the office. White or blue, have your dry cleaner fold it.
18. Keep your Dopp Kit stocked and ready to go. Have both of them stocked... One that stays at work and one in your closet. Put everything you need in it. Medicine, products, whatever. I keep a small one in my car too. (By the way, Dopp Kit is actually a brand name for the original maker of small leather bags for toiletries.)
19. Tell your dry cleaner you want your dress shirts cleaned without starch and pressed by hand. This is difficult to do.... Most dry cleaners have gone industrial and finding one that will hand press can be hard. Saying no starch doesn't always help either because large presses usually have starch left on them from the last guy's shirt. I prefer to iron my own shirts. Wash your shirts as normal, hang dry, use Magic Sizing instead of starch.
20. The gray crew neck sweatshirt is an American classic.
21. Invest in a great shoulder bag. Call it what you want. Man bag, purse. A shoulder bag keeps junk out of your pockets and messing up your pant lines. Buy a good one.
22. When you wear your trim two button suit, leave the belt in the closet- You don't need one. If pants have belt loops... wear a belt.
23. Wear cuff links without a tie. But don't assume links have to be huge novelty items. Try silk knots for a more subtle look.
24. When wearing sunglasses with a suit or sport coat, wirerimmed aviators are your most refined and understated option.
25. Sambas are the one sneaker that always go well with a suit.

Monday, November 12, 2007

GQ Rules: 25 Essential Tips, Secrets, and Shortcuts Guaranteed to Improve Your Style... Part 1

Every so often GQ will issue a booklet of advice, usually given away for subscribing. Here's my take on this years with tips on making them work in Pastoral Urbania. (Text in italics are quotes directly from GQ).

  1. Buy a two button suit. Assuming you haven't already... This is a direct statement against the three button, which I believe is worn way too much. The three button is better for some body types, but usually makes you look like your trying to mimmick your favorite NBA star.

  2. Chances are, you're wearing your suit a size too large. Absolutely... This is why men look like they're little boys. A suit that's too large makes you appear to have ransacked your father's closet. Let someone who knows what they're doing help you and always try the same suit in multiple sizes before purchasing.

  3. Put toe taps on your leather soled dress shoes. I always forget to do this... Note to self....
  4. Matching wood hangers. Plastic is acceptable, wire is uncivilized, and matching wood hangers are perfection.

  5. If you're going to own one sweater, make it a charcoal gray v-neck. It goes with jeans, slacks, under a suit, even khakis... You can wear with a dress shirt with or without a tie, with a t-shirt, no shirt.... you get the point.

  6. A black J.M. Weston belt works with khakis, jeans, suits, everything. Except that it costs $350 dollars which for most folks is about $300 dollars too much for a belt.
  7. A dark, slim tie will instantly give any esemble a younger cooler feel. If you've ever tried to pull of a tie with jeans and felt like a dork then the width of your tie is probably the issue. I bought a nice navy tie at J. Crew yesterday about two and half inches thick.
  8. Your raincoat should be as trim and tailored as your suits.
  9. Invest in a classic one or two button tuxedo with peak or notch lapels. The reason for this is simple. Buying a tuxedo costs about as much as renting one twice. By buying one you can guarantee a good fit, dodge having to return it quickly, and your bowtie will actually untie.

  10. Don't waste money on a fancy lint remover.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Its all in the Yang.

Yesterday morning a guy got in his car and drove to Washington.

He didn't go because he particularly wanted to... it wasn't even his idea originally. But when he left my little pastoral urbania is the one that lost. On an artistic level, we lost the best actor we had. We lost the best director we had. Metaphysically we lost the other side of the taijitu. I no longer have a compassionate atheist to spar with until the wee hours of the morning. Some people lost on all sorts of levels, some lost a friend, a lover, a confidant. But that's not the most important loss we suffered. And his leaving should teach us something. I may have lost the ability to sit down face to face with this gentleman, but for those of us that call him our friend we'll always have him by email or travel. The most insufferable loss will be by those who will never have a name for it. In a town full of people that all believe generally the same thing and look generally the same way, we lost someone who was remarkably different. We lost someone who added flair, flavor, and perspective to any occasion or conversation. We lost someone who could have added a new hue to the tapestry.

Dave Atell has a joke where he claims that Alaska has the angriest KKK chapter in the world. Every time they meet they say, "We've got to do something, this is getting out of hand, we have to get.... Eric." While a committee of any type gathering to deal with a different sect that only has one member in their area is funny on a certain level, we've created a community that makes those that are different from us fight a battle every day they live here. I have no idea what its like to be part of the labeled minority. One of those people who's label is just enough off center to attract the scrutiny of the generally judgmental. But I know that as long as I let those people remain the loudest voice my little burg will continue to lose the most interesting voices that we have. The ones that if I do disagree with are the only ones capable of making me stronger. The ones that if I do agree with will provide me with the inspiration to carry on that belief.

My friend is now gone, not from me entirely but in the way I've grown to know him. And we are poorer for it.

The only solace that I can find in this fact is what it has taught me as I write this. This town is not small minded, nor is it conservative, nor is it judgmental.... because this is my town. And I will not allow it. I will change its voice. Or I will become the label that's a little too far from center.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Why you should wear a tie.

The tie may be the most maligned and cursed accessory in the male wardrobe. Required usage at workplaces usually earn negative comments from most of the workers with words like "draconian" mingled throughout them. However this piece of wardrobe is the simplest and most versatile piece of clothing you will ever own. Those that master its usage will forever change their level of dress.

Since most of you already disagree with me, let's start this discussion from the negative. While the tie may seem without purpose, this is simply not true. The tie draws people's eyes to your face. It is the supreme focuser. The dash, color, and placement of the tie will direct people's eyes to yours. The tie also makes it possible to change any ensemble in a matter of moments. Pick out a blue suit and a blue shirt, pick five different ties and you have a weeks worth of clothes. Dressing this way isn't more expensive, its actually less because of the 1.5 square ft of fabric in the middle of your chest. The tie also gives us all the ability to express our personalities (if yours calls for Sponge Bob Square Pants ties... give up now.) So the tie has function, without question.

The secondary part of this is simple. People wearing ties look better. Period. This is not a matter of personal taste, its a matter of group consciousness. In a tie you look more professional, better groomed, and more successful (assuming the banning of novelty ties mentioned earlier). Think about it, if you walk up to two people at a place of business you're going to assume that the one wearing a tie is the superior. If you see two people at separate work places you're going to assume the tie makes more. It doesn't really matter if you agree with this logic, the point is that the majority of people do unconsciously and you should take advantage of it.

Now finally... If you're uncomfortable in the shirt and tie then yours doesn't fit. This is never the tie's fault because it's whatever your neck size is. If your tie is too tight you just loosen it. The culprit is really your shirt. Too big or too small the result is a piece of clothing you can't ignore and not in the good way. The combination of two shirt sizes and a self tied knot, I'll admit makes the margin of error somewhat daunting. However, I challenge anyone to let me measure them for a shirt and see if they're still uncomfortable. In the shirt world there are about 30-40 different options and issues to consider when fitting a shirt and discomfort always means one of those has been neglected. That doesn't mean that all your shirts have to be special ordered although if you ever go that route you'll probably never buy off the rack again. It just means that you should find one or two labels in your price range and stick to them. Some cut a little narrower in the waist, some a little longer in the arm, etc. The great thing about this concept is that once you find a manufacturer that fits you well you can buy all your shirts online with a better selection and usually a much better fit and price.

A few easy rules...
  1. Large doesn't mean more comfortable. The larger the shirt the more fabric you have to find a place for to get the tie up against your neck.
  2. If its sleeve length is two numbers, 34/35 for example, ALWAYS try it on before leaving the store.
  3. Once you know your size, it changes. Get measured at least once a year by someone who knows what they're doing.

Now I'll admit something... Some occupations tend to frown on ties. Technology jobs for example, but that doesn't' change the fact that the CIO probably wears one. I know Bill Gates and Steve Jobs don't wear ties in an attempt to seem hip, but really... They just look sloppy. Nobody is using them as examples because they want to emulate their style.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

10 Things you should already be doing. Part 2

  1. Pocket a lighter. Regardless of the fact that they shouldn't and that the state of California has made it illegal, most of the young single women I know smoke. They may only smoke at the bar, while drinking, or in that little black dress but.... Nothing is more straight out of a film noir sexy than lighting a woman's cigarette without being asked. Bonus points if you don't smoke.
  2. Upgrade the vino. The days of Budweiser are over, my boy. Why are you still drinking the same stuff that you used to drink because it was all you could afford or get your hands on? Every man should have one drink he can order neat or on the rocks, a wine preference that does not have "Boone's" or "chillable" in the title, and a beer that can't be purchased at a convientent store in a thirty pack. Drink a little less, and a whole lot better.
  3. Get a flashlight. Put it in your car. No... really.
  4. Read. One book and one magazine a month. Anything about sports doesn't count.
  5. Comment on my blog. The next person that tells me they think I'm funny when I write but hasn't posted has to buy me a Glennfiddich neat.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

10 Things you should already be doing. Part 1

  1. Wear a good watch. Men's accessories are too minimal to leave out the best one. It should be solid without being flashy. Its metal color should never clash with your ring, cuff links, or belt buckle. Reason? Anything that minimizes the number of times you look at your Blackberry a day needs no other justification, but for the stubborn... Ask any girl about the scene in the Bourne Identity where Damon washes Potente's hair and between the sighs she'll mention his watch. I don't know why... and really... who cares?
  2. Carry a handkerchief. No, it isn't gross. No, it isn't weird. You don't carry it for general use and you don't wipe your nose on it when you're standing next to a box of Kleenex. The handkerchief is meant for the moment, it is the hero of the unexpected. It can be a bandage for my little boy's knee, wipe the tears of a friend, and save a beautiful woman's dress from her lunch without even breaking a sweat. (obviously with the appropriate washing practices in between uses.) Not only that but it can upgrade your suit in a moment... yes that pocket on the front of your jacket has a purpose... use it. (P.S. Ladies. When offered a handkerchief you should never return it until washed if you find the man interesting. It is the original "What's your number?".
  3. Use wet wipes in the bathroom. Skid marks are so third grade.
  4. Enjoy a well tied tie. By this point you should know more than one knot. No you don't need to wear a tie to be a grown up, but the guy in the cube next to you isn't complaining about his now is he? While you don't need a tie to be a grown up (and since when was being a grown up the goal?), you do need it to be a well groomed gentleman.
  5. Go well heeled. Tennis shoes are for tennis, jogging shoes are for jogging,..... are you seeing a pattern?